Thursday, June 07, 2007

Difficult Listening Hour


I'm gearing up to write more reviews [No, the Haydn still hasn't been touched]. There is a stack of scores next to my bed as high as my mattress--I put my book on top of the stack instead of my nightstand last night. Instead of talking about boring stuff like what I've been doing on my house [tuckpointing my foundation, reglazing windows, stripping paint blah blah], I thought I'd share some things on music I've found during my endless peregrinations throughout the Interweb.

The first is a vid that has me ready to buy some Gyorgy Ligeti. Its a bit heavy on the visual effects, but the playing and the piece are electrifying. Well worth a watch. And the creepy undertone of the whole thing is essentially an ascending motif that anyone that had to do piano practice will recognize.

I find it amazing just what is ingrained in us. Looking Left-Right-Left when crossing the street, even when you're in London and you know better, for example. For those that haven't had the pleasure of enforced piano practice in younger years, and even for those who don't find themselves all that musical, it is amazing the inviolable space that the modern tonal system [temperament] has on each of our internal hard drives. Most of us, even those who can't carry a tune in a bucket still hear a melody that only counts certain tones and leaves out others. Of all the different frequencies in an octave, only 12 are chosen for play. Anything else sounds out of tune. In case you don't believe me, watch this, a performance of a piece by Charles Ives. One piano is tuned precisely a quarter tone up, which means that between the two pianos, there are 24 notes, not 12, to the octave. You get here a half-joking, half-serious piece that includes notes between the cracks. The wistfulness in the last minute is amazingly effective and unsettling.

And for those who still haven't had enough, I'll close with just about my favorite five minutes of piano writing of the 20th century, the first movement cadenza of the Prokofiev 2nd piano concerto. It isn't performed often, which is a shame. I looked all over for good sounding performances that didn't have synch problems, and this is the one I decided on, performed by Nikolai Lugansky, whose Rachmaninov Concertos I'm reviewing sometime in the next 35 years. He smooths out some of the angles in the piece--I like this cadenza as angular as it can get--I keep thinking to write something based on this cadenza, but haven't the slightest idea how. The piece plays as the soundtrack to my dreams, even. Something must be done.

3 comments:

Kristen said...

God it's those pictures again--I'm going to have nightmares!

brizbrizuri said...

You like the Ligeti piece because the pianist is cute.

Actually, I was a bit surprised in my scrolling on YouTube to find when I clicked the animated "Scherzo Infernal" video it didn't tell me first that it might contain offensive material. Nothing like a bit of harmless animation.

Brian Burtt said...

I think that, in 200 or so years, when people finally come to understand what the heck Ives was up to, he'll be considered the greatest American composer.